The Civility do not believe in life from Other Than Here, until the Aliens arrive.
Cousins Scapa and Jalai are born into The Civility, a culture where life is seen as a Flow from Source to Sounding, and where the Sky is worshipped and human sacrifice is part of their religion. When a Second Light appears in the sky, Scapa is convinced it is life from Other Than Here, which is blasphemy and scares his younger cousin, Jalai, and in the wider society, creates historical upheaval.
This short story, a template for a book or a sequence of books, follows Scapa, who becomes a scientist and welcomes the possibility of life from other planets while Jalai, becomes a politician and a religious leader and is more circumspect that life exists anywhere Other Than Here. Initially the reality of the Aliens cannot be denied, they physically arrive, but when no communication is possible, they are studied and vivisected, and in time, as religious and political movements rise in The Civility, their existence questioned and denied.
The society divides, on the one side the Sublimists, who believe the Aliens to be real, this includes Scapa as leader of the Scientific Kith, and also a group called the Solus, who believe the Aliens to be a semi-deity. On the other side, the Riolegionites, including a minor scholar called Michon, who believe the arrival of those from Other Than Here to be a Great Deception. In the middle, The Social Conciliation (the Government of The Civility) is pragmatic, until the Schism of opinion turns violent with the public execution of Michon by the Solus, and then further execution of the leaders of the Solus by a new group emerging called The Return.
Jalai now steps into to stop civil war, becoming leader Social Conciliation and of The Return, while Scapa and the Scientists are left tainted and rejected by their association with the Solus.
Through politics, Jalai heals the schism within the Civility, and through reformation, moves religion past sacrifice and past barbaric practice. The price of the peace is denial; denial the Second Light was ever alien in origin, and denial of what Scapa know to be scientific fact, that aliens did arrive, and in peace, and that there once was physical evidence of their existence.
Jalai sends for Scapa, her only blood relative, to be brought to her one last time, and in keeping with the new Civility, she does not have him killed, but banishes him forever. The burden of responsibility for saving her people has been great and she dies relatively young, further adding to a growing rewriting of the past and creating of her myth.
The Civility flourishes, the aliens are dismissed as an ancient deception and the Schism a footnote in history. After a Flow of nearly Thirteen Thaws, or 53 years in the language of the Earth, the Aliens, or the Arecibo as they call themselves, return but they do not come in peace this time.
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